In his landmark book, Wild at Heart, John Eldridge writes, “Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because this wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.” There has been much written about this “father-wound” in recent years, relating it to the prevalent social dysfunction of very many men. While some men may have found a healing from such a trauma to their inner man, it seems that most never really get sufficient relief resulting in never really living up to their true identity.
As a son, I can easily recount my own soul-inflictions given by my biological father. However, as a father, it is not so simple to know or reflect on the wounds I inflicted on my own son. Like so many dads, there is not (generally) an intention to do harm, but our own anger, frustration and hurts can easily boil over to burn those most like us…our sons. I remember how terrified I was to become a dad, fearful that I would replicate what I had known.
While Eldridge notes that this topic is rarely discussed (especially in public), I suppose most of the reason for it is fear…fear of not being perceived as a man by other men. Yet, the wound remains, the effects rolling over to the next generation of boys and the next and the next.
I can only speak authoritatively about my own experience, but such is wrapped up in the perceptions, largely, of a child since my father left us when I was 4 years old. Those early perceptions seemed to be validated in later exposures to this man whom I never really came to know very well. It makes me wonder about the epidemic of fatherlessness in these United States some 60 years later. What about the 40% of children raised in fatherless homes today? There are all kinds of statistics substantiating the negative social impact of this phenomenon: imprisonment, dropout rates, social disorders, behavioral problems, etc. What is to be done to remedy this affliction of the father-wound?
Having the advantage of being able to look back over many years of life, I have come to the conclusion that most of my healing came from above. For unknown reasons, my faith has constantly propelled me in my prayer life to address, “Our Father in Heaven…” Perhaps that instruction from Jesus on how to pray has wielded the greatest benefit by settling in my soul the fact that I have a just and loving Father that has, time and again, demonstrated what He intends we fathers are to be to our sons. There is a closeness of relationship because He is our Father. Yet, there is a “distance” because He resides in Heaven…and I don’t. Relationally, He is my Father. Providentially, He is my Sovereign. Even a son must learn obedience to the will of his father who is King over His Kingdom. Seek first the Kingdom of God… It seems to me that our personal relationship with the Father is subject to His will, statutes and laws of the Kingdom. Jesus understood this.
The ultimate “father-wound was
prophesied by Isaiah seven hundred years before the fulfillment of what he “saw
in the Spirit”:
“Surely He has borne or griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we were healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6
As if this is not enough of the father-wound, Jesus cried out on the cross to His Father, “Why have You forsaken me?” Momentary fatherhood disconnection was agony for Jesus. Jesus, too, suffered the “father-wound”, but it was for the sake of the Kingdom that was coming. It is difficult for me to fathom that the loving Father planned to put His Son through all the torture and bodily suffering, but Jesus understood the purpose and trusted His Father’s plan would result in His resurrection. Abram believed the same thing with regard to the sacrifice of Isaac…resurrection power trumps death. Perhaps if we can get a kingdom view of our own father-wounds, we, too, would experience our own redemptive resurrection for the benefit of those for whom Jesus died.